In a time when mascot issues continue to make waves in national news in an attempt to remove their use – most significantly the professional Washington football team and the Cleveland professional baseball team – the University of Utah will continue to be able to use the name “Utes” for its sports teams.
A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation and the university on April 15. Signing the MOU were David Pershing, university president, and Gordon Howell, chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee, at an event in Ft. Duchesne, Utah, tribal headquarters.
“The tribe applauds the University’s commitment to respecting the Ute name and culture and to using the name in a manner that accounts for and promotes the interests of the tribe,” said Gordon Howell, chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee. “This agreement will do a lot to promote positive educational opportunities for Ute and other American Indian youth and will enhance the positive working relationship between the tribe and the University.”
“The University is honored to be allowed to continue using the Ute name, which the school has done with Ute Tribe support since 1972,” Pershing said in a joint press release following the MOU signing. “We have pledged to do so with the utmost respect, recognizing that the Ute name is at the core of the cultural identity of the tribe and its members. In return, we are working actively with the tribe to promote and support access to higher education among its members.”
The university campus will see an education campaign that will educate the students and fans on the history of the Ute Indian Tribe. Another key will be to communicating standards for appropriate fan behavior. “The campaign aims to promote cultural understanding in order to avoid behaviors and misunderstandings that dishonor the Ute and other American Indian populations,” the release states.
“An educated understanding of the tribal Utes – as well as other Native peoples in this region – is fundamental to an informed history of our state,” says Pershing. “From that acknowledgment comes authentic and respectful fan behavior. ‘Go Utes’ is not simply distinctive shorthand for ‘Utah.’ It is a much-loved phrase that at its best recognizes – and values – the richness of Ute Indian history and heritage.”
The MOU is a public document that features some major points as follows:
— Term is for five years, and will be reviewed annually.
— The tribe gives the University full support for the University’s use of the Ute name.
— The University commits to funding scholarships for American Indian students including a permanent scholarship category for Ute Tribal Members.
— The University will work with the tribe to create enrichment and educational opportunities for tribal youth, with the aim of encouraging, inspiring and supporting them to lead healthy lives and to pursue post-secondary education.
— The University will appoint, with approval from the Utah Tribal Leaders Council, a special advisor to the president on Native American affairs, who will serve as liaison between tribal leaders and the University.